Israel is still confused over how to deal with developments in Egypt following the June 30 revolution that led to the ouster of former president Mursi.
Before the revolution, Israel took a series of security measures concerning its border with Egypt. Among these was the use of drones to monitor what’s happening in Sinai; it transferred elite forces to the border to monitor for sudden attacks; Israel also coordinated with Egyptian forces to follow up on any unusual activity.
Despite such preparation, Israel now faces new strategic questions over Egypt, especially given that the general atmosphere in other neighboring countries is not in Israel’s favor.
Israeli intelligence predicts that the situation in Egypt will not calm down. Regardless of this, it is believed that the Obama administration will not give up on Egypt, will not totally abandon the Muslim Brotherhood, and will actively engage in the problem because the Israeli cabinet sees that America’s punishment of Egypt would harm Israel’s security and the peace treaty.
Therefore, Israel will have to do the following, at least in the foreseeable future:
- Keeping calm and waiting for a solution to the crisis. Not interfering in how events develop and resorting to indirect support for the relevant movements.
- Committing to the peace treaty and pressuring Egypt to continue controlling the Gaza Strip, defending Sinai’s security.
- Not rushing in concluding the Israeli-Turkish reconciliation, following tensions between the two countries and Turkey’s insistence that what happened in Egypt was a coup.
Despite this, Israel has not cast aside its military options on how to deal with the current confusion in the neighboring countries of Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. Israel confirmed that it will resort to the element of surprise when necessary. In all cases, Israel's key concern is to maintain and develop its strategic capabilities.
A wider challenge for Israel is how it will deal with the current and the possible future regime in Egypt. On the level of former, the Israeli cabinet sees that Egyptian security demands in Sinai must be met in exchange for Egypt’s commitment to the peace treaty. Regarding the latter, Israel is betting that the Islamic movement will lose its posts in the upcoming elections and that these movements will inevitably be eliminated from the political scene, and that it is probable a secular regime will make it to power. A secular regime would be concerned in establishing a liberal regime that applies real democracy. But this is not easy given then confused political scene.
There’s an Israeli conviction that Egypt is a basis of stability in the region. It is in Israel’s interest to maintain good relations with the Egyptian army since it alone maintains political stability in the country.
But Egypt will not witness full stability in the short term, especially given that transitional phases in countries like Egypt are not easy. There’s a possibility that events may escalate into a civil war in Egypt.
Political Islam is not a political power that can be defeated. And the Egyptians have realized that political Islam is not the solution. This confirms the Israeli certainty that Egypt appears like a state without a solution and that there’s no civil power that can impose law and order in Egypt.
If elections are held, it is probable that a new Mursi or a new Mubarak will come to power. And once again the people will take to Tahrir Square – not because they are supporters or opponents, but because the Egyptian situation is complicated and not easily solved.
The last conclusion is that Israel, until now, sees it is best not to interfere in Egyptian affairs amidst the presence of its good relations with the Egyptian army and security forces. Since Gaza and Sinai are calm on the level of Israel's security, Israel must maintain its silence and continue its military preparations for the worst. In all cases, Israel maintains its options for any possible confrontation.